2010 Big Ten Conference Recap: Michigan State Pitching

Now that I’ve covered both pitching and hitting on the team level, I’m going to delve into the same stuff  on the individual level.

My plan to look at individual pitching is to look for each team. Each post should be shorter than long-winded posts on all of the teams at once. With this being a Michigan State baseball blog, after all, I’ve decided to focus on the Spartans first in the series.

The Spartans on the team level allowed a league-low 309 runs versus an estimated 311 which also led the Big Ten. AJ Achter, now a Minnesota Twin, really paced the Spartans’ staff. He led the team in innings pitched (98.2), strikeouts (74),  and total batters faced (432).  He also had a team-high 36 walks and 12 hit batters.

Kurt Wunderlich and Tony Bucciferro rounded out the normal 3-man rotation as they combined to start 76% of the Spartans games. Andrew Waszak’s 9 starts made him only other MSU pitcher to have more than 3 starts.

Below is each pitcher’s strikeout rate (K%; K/total batters faced), walk and hit-by-pitch rate (BB%; walks + HBP’s/total batters faced), net strikeout rate (K-BB%), batting average on balls in play (BABIP), total batters faced (TBF), Defense Independent ERA estimator (dERA) and estimated pitches thrown (Pitches):

Name K% BB% K-BB% BABIP dERA Pitches
Achter, AJ 0.171 0.111 0.060 0.340 4.64 1470
Wunderlich, Kurt 0.122 0.096 0.025 0.329 5.17 1293
Bucciferro, Tony 0.135 0.063 0.073 0.322 5.23 1241
Waszak, Andrew 0.181 0.102 0.079 0.388 5.04 731
Popp, Trey 0.182 0.104 0.078 0.370 4.22 531
Frymier, Kurtis 0.176 0.124 0.052 0.343 4.70 528
Wieber, Tony 0.161 0.121 0.040 0.313 7.00 511
Simpson, Tim 0.226 0.097 0.129 0.233 3.87 326
Zwierzynski, Joe 0.233 0.082 0.151 0.408 3.71 256
Corcoran, Kyle 0.048 0.310 -0.262 0.500 16.36 156
Holm, Jeff 0.222 0.111 0.111 0.250 27.77 34
Doty, Stephen 0.250 0.500 -0.250 1.000 61.13 23

The pitch estimates come from this article at Boyd’s World, but the link to the formula that I use is escaping me. The formula for dERA is from Boyd’s World as well, as detailed in this article from 2003. While I hesitate to use a formula from seven years ago due to it’s relevancy in today’s ever-changing college baseball landscape, I think it would be better than trying to work FIP into the college game. That said, dERA and the corresponding dERA+ are here just mostly for show. When I’m looking at a pitcher’s numbers in college, the first things I’m looking at is their K% and BB% numbers. I put the largest emphasis of talent evaluation through numbers in college on those two statistics, but I digress.

Those numbers in the table above are all well and good, but here’s where they are versus the league average:

Name K+ BB+ K-BB+ BABIP+ dERA+
Achter, AJ 110 103 143 92 118
Wunderlich, Kurt 78 116 60 96 108
Bucciferro, Tony 87 146 174 98 107
Waszak, Andrew 116 111 188 77 111
Popp, Trey 117 110 186 82 125
Frymier, Kurtis 113 92 124 91 117
Wieber, Tony 103 95 96 100 76
Simpson, Tim 145 116 307 126 131
Zwierzynski, Joe 149 129 359 70 134
Corcoran, Kyle 31 -69 -624 41 -91
Holm, Jeff 142 103 265 121 -293
Doty, Stephen 160 -235 -595 -118 -886

The first thing to notice is that Stephen Doty, Jeff Holm and Kyle Corcoran’s numbers are all insignificant — there’s nothing about their talents in such a small data that we can discern.

The rest of the list is fair game, however. The Spartans are going to have to replace AJ Achter who was above average in striking batters out and in limiting his walks/HBP’s. He had a surpressed BABIP, but the best dERA of all the starters. That said, I think the future is bright for Andrew Waszak. He started 9 games (12 total appearances) as a freshman for MSU. While his K% might be buoyed by a few relief outings (I don’t have his numbers split up for relief v. starting), but he had a better K+ and BB+ than Achter did.

Obviously there needs to be caveats that Waszak didn’t pitch in a conference game, so his competition faced might not be as stiff as Achter — thus the numbers a bit misleading. Still, he was noted by Perfect Game as throwing 88 MPH with the fast ball and a curveball that showed good potential. Given his listing as a 6-foot3, 190-pounder, there’s potential for Waszak to fill out more and maybe get the heater up around 90 more consistently. Unfortunately, the success hasn’t exactly translated to the Great Lakes Collegiate Baseball League — a wood bat summer league — where he’s walked 13 and struck out 14 in 27 innings of work. Still,  he’s got great upside for the MSU rotation.

Moving on to the reliever, left-handed sophomore Trey Popp put up some solid numbers in limited work (33.1 IP). Kurtis Frymier was also solid from the right side, but MSU will need to replace that production due to his graduation. It’s likely that after Tim Simpson’s stellar Junior year — though just 22.2 IP and 93 batters faced — puts him in the running for substantial work out of the ‘pen among right-handers.

I’d look for a starting rotation, potentially, of Kurt Wunderlich, Tony Bucciferro, and Andrew Wazsak with potential that Tony Wieber grabs 5-10 starts depending on injuries and/or effectiveness. For me, though, Wazsak is probably the most exciting pitcher on the Spartans roster.


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